14th Feb2018

‘The Scent of Rain and Lightning’ Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Maika Monroe, Maggie Grace, Will Patton, Mark Webber, Brad Carter, Bonnie Bedelia, Logan Miller, Justin Chatwin, Aaron Poole, Kassia Conway | Written by Jeff Robison, Casey Twenter | Directed by Blake Robbins

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Directed by Blake Robbins, and based on a New York Times bestselling novel by Nancy Pickard, The Scent of Rain and Lightning tells the story of Jody Linder (Maika Monroe), a Midwestern twenty-something who’s past resurfaces when the man convicted of killing her parents has his sentence pardoned. Jody begins to question the facts behind her parents’ deaths and gradually faces the possibility that the wrong man was convicted of the crime. The further Jody delves into the past, more and more startling truths begin to emerge about her family’s tragic past, and Jody must put the pieces together to reveal the truth.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a layered slow burning thriller which respects the audience in its delivery by not signposting the events. It is a film which you really need to follow from the start as the subtle clues and brief insights into the past creates an ambiguity regarding events, as the web of lies are gradually untangled without giving too much away.

The film moves back and forth between two timelines. In the present we follow Jodie who is distraught after learning that the convicted killer of her parents has been released from prison, but with doubt in her mind she begins to dig up the past to try and confirm what really happened. As Jodie begins to put the pieces together, we see the past unfold through a series of flashbacks. Looking deeper, suddenly the ideal family home with her parents which Jody fondly remembers becomes tainted, as she begins to recall the events of the past and the people around her in a very different light.

The strength of the film is the performances from the talented cast who manage to make a significant impression, although it feels that some are only introduced to muddy the waters. Maggie Grace has a memorable performance in the flashback as the murdered Laurie as does a hardnosed Will Patton, whose edginess to his character, makes you feel he is always holding something back. It was however Mark Webber who despite having a supporting role stood out for me as a central character who I would like to have seen incorporated more throughout.

One of the most interesting characters was Billy who was played with a sinister conviction by Brad Carter. There is a fascinating contrast with the character between the flashbacks of the past and the present, although many of his personality traits remain present throughout. Much like many of the characters, our perception of Billy begins to change when we learn more about his past, which causes you to develop a very different sentiment towards his character. Even though he may not be the most likeable person you do feel an element of sympathy for the way in which he is treated.

I was impressed with a powerful performance Maika Monroe who drives the film with her complex portrayal of Jodie, who is fuelled by a multitude of emotions. Not just portrayed as a victim, Jodie comes across as head strong as she continues to uncover the truth, even though it soon becomes apparent that she may not like what she begins to uncover. Some of the best moments in the film are when Billy and Jodie are together on the screen and a great example is when Jodie decides to confront Billy following his release. Fuelled by anger and revenge Jodie initially confronts him to ask why he killed her parents? But when Billy suddenly takes control she begins to show her insecurities and the fragile nature of her character.

The strength of The Scent of Rain and Lightning may be in the solid performances, but the film also creates some memorable shots with the more visually tranquil moments. Whether it be the lingering pauses of the open scenery or the off-kilter shots of the characters, these moments seem to take step back momentarily from the brooding tensions which create an almost dreamlike serenity.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a dark slow-paced thriller, which takes time to unfold. There are some great performances from the talented cast. I would like to have seen some of the characters evolved more, although they do brilliantly with the screen time they have. If you are looking for a beautifully shot thriller which actually challenges you to think, this is a film worth watching.

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